Re: Work or Pay Systems
From: Tim Mensch (
Date: Sun, 3 Aug 2008 12:33:34 -0700 (PDT)
Brian Bartholomew wrote:
Tim Mensch writes:
> For urgent decisions, they also have an instant-fallback if they can't > reach consensus: At an "Impurgent" meeting (Important AND Urgent), if > consensus isn't reached, the decision can fall back on a simple majority > vote. Sometimes you just need to make a decision and don't have the > luxury of convincing everyone.

I don't see much difference between that process and the one street
gangs use to select from victims who live in the neighborhood.  What
democracy approves is limited only by the personalities of the
majority.  If democratic decisions are wise and caring, it's because
your people are gentle, not because your process can restrain ugliness.
That's not the point of the process by any stretch. The point of cohousing is to live among a group of folks you can (in large part) trust; if they prove to be untrustworthy or unkind, then by all means, get out of that situation--either find another community, or move out of cohousing and find ways to connect with your neighbors, and share resources that are not owned in common.

The point of the process is that sometimes a decision /must/ be made, and sometimes that decision needs to be made quickly. If the roof is leaking in a unit, you can't abide one member insisting that, e.g., a really expensive green-certified company be used that can't start for a month, when a less expensive trusted company could do the work tomorrow. When such decisions must be made, you have no choice but to sacrifice one member's opinion (or even go against their values) for the good of the community. Otherwise any one member can hold the whole community hostage to their decisions--and if you have TWO members unpleasant enough to try this, you'll get a deadlock and no decision at all. I have actually seen such a thing happen when I was a guest at a cohousing community once--thankfully they had a process to deal with it.

And, as has been said before, if you don't like that arrangement--and Brian, I know you've written against voting overrides many times--then avoid it. No one is forcing you to live in a particular cohousing community at all, and I know that some communities exist that practice consensus with no override possible. If you don't like an existing community because its decision-making process is not to your taste--or violates your sense of personal space or ethics--then don't live there. If there are elements owned and maintained in common, then I wouldn't consider living there myself without a consensus override--so you and I are destined to never live in (or at least be happy in) the same communities. That's fine, there are plenty of communities for everyone--and you're free to be the burning soul for a new community formed in your image.

Though frankly it seems like you'd have more luck following the "Superbia" approach of just building community in a traditional single-family-home neighborhood--that way there would be no mandatory shared ownership of any property, and no need for "Impurgent" decisions. That's where I'm headed in my personal adventure to build community, in part to have enough space for my newly-larger family (there's a new baby boy Mensch about three and a half months old who will eventually need his own room...).


Tim Mensch

Currently at Wild Sage (Boulder, CO):

Moving out! Our unit is for sale!

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